Archive for the ‘Vision’ Category

Do You Like Your Job?

I didn’t like the job that God seemed to be leading me into. I wanted to be a missionary but I had just been offered a good job with county government. My leader had interpreted this as God’s will for me to work in a secular job instead of working for his missionary organization. But I felt very disappointed. I didn’t think the job would be as exciting or important as being a missionary.

I suffered for two years with feeling that my career was inferior to being a full-time Christian worker – until I read the book, Secular Worker is Full-Time Service. The book explained that whatever job God leads us into, it is important work. A missionary’s work is not more important than doing a government job. We are all God’s representatives to the people at our jobs and to those who benefit from our labor. We further God’s work in the world by doing our jobs well, even if they are secular.

After reading this book I felt better. I had peace. I embraced my new career and stayed with it for 34 years. Although my career may not have been as desirable as being a missionary, it was what God wanted to do.

Part of the problem with our jobs is that we often use them to try to meet needs that they were never been designed to meet. We seek a fulfillment and meaning that our jobs will never provide. Unless they are connected to God’s purposes, they will lack meaning and satisfaction.

However, in my experience, I feel his joy and peace when I sense he is using me in my job. The honor and respect we get from people through our job achievements will never match the love, respect, and acceptance we get from God from just being his sons or daughters. We can learn to be content in our secular jobs resting in what God thinks of us rather than depending on what others think.

We must see our jobs from God’s perspective. Every job that God leads us to do has an important purpose in God’s plan of revealing himself and rescuing people from Satan’s control.

When we see our jobs as our way to serve God, it takes on more meaning than just putting bread on the table. Also, I have found that any job can be made more fulfilling by doing a good job. I feel satisfied out of doing the simplest projects well.

As I reflect on my secular career, I see how God has used the experience to make me more like himself. The tedious tasks developed patience, the difficult assignments developed courage, and the overwhelming projects developed humility.  The times I wasn’t promoted produced endurance, the times of success produced confidence in God’s goodness, and the times of obscurity produced greater dependence on God’s high opinion of me instead of what others think.

As the Psalmist says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10, NLT). May we accept that God’s choice of our job is better than having any other job. We can then expect to experience joy and peace for doing his assignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is That All There Is?

Many years ago, singer Peggy Lee asked the question, “Is that all there is?” in a song. From my memory, these are some lines from that song:

 

Is that all there is? Is that all there is?

If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing.

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.

If that’s all, …there is.

 

It is a sad and hopeless song that saw the meaninglessness of life.

But, is that all there is?

No! Life was intended to be an exciting adventure following God. I discovered this at the age of 26 after I had failed to find sufficient meaning in a career, education, romance, and pleasure seeking.

Several years ago, I wondered if the discipleship I offered men could be deeper. I wondered if I could learn to help them be transformed in deeper ways. I wondered, “Is this all there is?”

No! I went to seminary to study how to disciple men better and found that there were many concepts and practices I did not know or do that could help men to be transformed at the deepest levels.

Then, yesterday I talked to a depressed man who was struggling to find usefulness in his retirement years. He was comfortable and had no external forces on him to do much of anything. He wondered, “Is this all there is?”

I said to him, “No! God has prepared many things for you to be and do in your retirement years.” “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God has prepared in advance that we should do” (Ephesians 2:10).

 

Why We Think That’s All There is

 

Many of us think that this is all there is because we have been deceived into believing the lies of the evil world under Satan’s control. “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Satan tries to sell us a false narrative that life is largely meaningless, that Christianity is following the rules, and that we are over-the-hill when we retire. All of this narrative is false!

What the narrative misses is the loving, intimate relationship that God offers us to face and overcome the challenges of meaninglessness, ministry, and usefulness.

Yet, we tend to cling to the pain we know, afraid to venture out into the unknown fully controlled by Someone who loves us dearly and can move heaven and earth to help us. We prefer to believe, “Yes, that’s all there is.”

 

How To Pursue More

 

To pursue all there is, we must have the courage and be willing to take risks. Listen to this inspiring excerpt from a speech by President Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

May we never accept the lies of the world, but embrace the truth that Jesus promises us, “I have come that you may have a truly meaningful and fulfilling life” (John 10:10, paraphrased).

May we never believe, “That’s all there is.”

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Wouldn’t It Be Nice

I don’t believe that many of us Christians have a clear vision of how fulfilling and joyful our lives could be. Many of us settle for a lifestyle that is far below what it could be. But wouldn’t it be nice if our day-to-day living were more like this:

  • We experience a deep and enjoyable love relationship with God throughout the day. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
  • We are not afraid so much because we rely on our good God to control the circumstances for our good. “Every good and perfect gift comes from God” (James 1:17, paraphrased).
  • We see God throughout the day in our devotions, people, circumstances, nature, etc. and feel guided, loved, and protected by him.
  • We are content with our lot in life knowing that God will change things in his time. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in (Philippians 4:12).
  • We live in the reality that “It’s okay to be me” and we don’t feel that we have to pretend. “God has made us always acceptable to him” (Hebrews 10:14, paraphrased).
  • We expect God’s love and favor throughout the day. “Surely God’s goodness and love will be my experience today” (Psalm 23:6, paraphrased).
  • We do things that are right for us and we are not pressured by others to do what they want us to do. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
  • We share the heaviness of our problems with God throughout the day, and receive his help as we ask for it. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28).
  • We don’t beat ourselves up when we fail to meet standards because God doesn’t. “I am gentle” (Matthew 11:29).

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live like this all of the time.

And we can!

This lifestyle is God’s will for each of us as we cooperate with him to change us. “Be strong in experiencing God’s undeserved blessings” (2 Timothy 2:1).

Why settle for less?

Let’s not say that the cost is too high because God says, “When a person finds this kind of lifestyle, he pays any price to get it” (Matthew 13:46, paraphrased).

Let’s not say that we don’t want this lifestyle because God says that idols, achievements, praise and pleasures will not satisfy us anywhere near like he will (Mark 4:19; John 10:10).

And let’s not say that we want to depend on ourselves to make life work because we need God’s favor for life to work as described above (Jeremiah 17:5).

May I suggest that you ask God to help you picture what your day would be like today if you were living more in the lifestyle described above. Spend a couple of minutes imagining this reality.

Wouldn’t it be nice!

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Well, it’s that time again- time to make New Year’s Resolutions!

I have to admit that I am ambivalent about making them. I have often failed to achieve them and wonder if it’s even God’s will to make them. After all, doesn’t God already have my life planned out?

In the past, my New Year’s Resolutions have been my goals for the year. I had goals for every major area of my life. I like to plan so it was easy for me to make them. Yet, I wonder to this day if they did me much good.

So, why make goals?

The Scriptures support that God wants and expects us to plan and make goals. “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).

One reason God wants us to plan is to see the danger ahead and take action before it is too late. “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naïve proceed and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 27:12).

Another reason he wants us to set goals is because he wants us to set our sights on what he wants us to do. “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

We are not wise to make whatever goals tickle our fancy. He has called each one of us to certain goals that he has planned for us to do. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He doesn’t want us thrashing around chasing after every impulse of ours. He wants us to be like Paul who said, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26).

Our “running” and “boxing” need to be directed towards God’s targets.

So, how do we make goals that are God’s goals?

One thing we could do is to commit the goal-setting process to him. ”Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and he will do it” (Psalm 37:5). At the end of the goal-setting or New Year’s Resolution process we need to aim for our goals being his goals –they need to be what God wants to do in and through us during the new year.

We would be wise to always remember that, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We can do nothing of eternal value without our goals being his goals.

God usually guides us step by step. So, our goals may change some during the year. We need to ”Trust Him with all [our] heart and do not lean on [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6) as the year goes by. Our goals need to be the product of daily communion with God as we partner with him throughout the year to achieve them through his strength.

Are you going to set some goals or New Year’s resolutions? If you have decided to go ahead and set some goals, commit the process to God in prayer. Ask him to bring to your mind one goal he wants to either accomplish in you or through you during the year. Ask him what he wants you to do to cooperate with him in achieving this goal. Thank him for what he is going to do.

 

 

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Without a Vision

I recently challenged a group of people to go deeper with God in allowing him to transform them at the heart-level. I was shocked to hear a couple of them say that they did not want to do this. They did not want to be transformed at the heart-level.

I have always been puzzled by people who by their words or actions do not want to grow spiritually. I have always placed a high priority on growing spiritually throughout my Christian life. So, it is hard for me to understand those who do not want to grow.

Someone asked me a few nights ago why so few Christians want to leave their comfortable status quo and go on to a deeper journey with God. I told him that I thought this desire to go deeper with God is a gift that God gives to some. I also said that I think people fill their lives with substitutes for God that dull their hunger for him.

However, today, I thought of another reason. I think a lot of people lack vision. They really cannot imagine how wonderful their lives would be in the presence of God throughout the day. Below is an excerpt from my book, Experiencing God’s Transforming Love, which I wrote in hopes of capturing a glimpse of the wonderful biblical reality that would motivate them to go deep with God:

“Imagine living in the presence of Someone who is very strong, and who is head-over-heels in love with us. Imagine Someone whose smile slowly melts away our fears and tensions. Imagine Someone who is always there for us, but gives us space when we need it. Imagine Someone who will never reject us no matter how weak and unbelieving we are. Imagine Someone who enjoys being with us and delights in who we really are.”

Perhaps with this vision people may not be so reluctant to have their lives and reality transformed. Perhaps they will be drawn from their darkness into the light of an intimate love relationship with God that he so desires with each of them.

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God’s Love for Us

Imagine living in the presence of someone who is very strong, and who is head-over-heels in love with us. Imagine someone whose smile slowly melts away our fears and tensions, for “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Imagine someone who is always there for us, but gives us space when we need it. Imagine someone who will never reject us no matter how weak and unbelieving we are, for God says to us, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Imagine someone who enjoys being with us and delights in who we really are.

Such is the love that God has for us, his children. There are no strings attached to his love. He gives us his love as a gift. It is too good to be true, yet it is true. We can do nothing to cause God to stop loving us, and we can do nothing to cause him to love us more. His love is already as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11).

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The Vision

The hit song from the Sixties called “Alfie” had a lyric in it that asked, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” The song was a message to a self-absorbed Alfie that there was more to life than using it for his own selfish pleasures. That something was loving others. God would adjust this to say that life was about a love relationship between himself and us, and us and others. The greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,” and the second greatest is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-39).

Imagine living in the presence of someone who is very strong, and who is head-over-heels in love with us. Imagine someone whose smile slowly melts away our fears and tensions, for “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).Imagine someone who is always there for us, but gives us space when we need it. Imagine someone who will never reject us no matter how weak and unbelieving we are, for God says to us, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Imagine someone who enjoys being with us and delights in who we really are.

Such is the love that God has for us, his children. There are no strings attached to his love. He gives us his love as a gift. It is too good to be true, yet it is true. We can do nothing to cause God to stop loving us, and we can do nothing to cause him to love us more. His love is already as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11).

He knows our every weakness and every sin that we have buried deep in our hearts, yet he still loves us. His love for us comes from who he is, not from our performance. He wants us to rest in his love for us, and let him satisfy our needs for worth, safety, and being acceptable. He does not want us to keep striving to earn worth, love, and safety, for it is so unnecessary and is only an illusion. Yet, we will need to be “diligent to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11).

God wants us to live increasingly in this reality of his intimate love for us. He wants us to soak in his love and be transformed by it. “Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He yearns to transform our lives from striving to be loved and valuable, to resting in the glory of being his precious children.

It Will Not Be Easy

So, why do we know so much about God’s love for us and yet often fail to experience it? One major reason is that we were born that way. We were born to live a life without experiencing his love, which comes through not depending on him.  We were born to hide from God, or, if necessary, try to earn his love by being good. “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11).

In addition, we were trained by our parents, schools, friends, and society that there is no free lunch, and that we must jump through various hoops to get love, acceptance and worth. No matter how godly our parents were, they did not perfectly reflect God’s deep love and delight in us. So, we learned not to trust in being loved without some strings attached. For me, it was being strong, being smart, and playing by the rules.

Now, the problem does not go away just because we receive Christ and are born again. We carry this baggage of a spirit that is oriented and trained to earn love into our relationship with God. So, we will tend to relate to God the way we related to our parents and others. This would include seeking to impress him, compensating for our bad by being good, hiding our bad from him, and seeking to live our lives without his help. We fail to realize that God is greatly different from anyone else we have ever related to, and that we need to be retrained to live in a love relationship with him.

However, churches have often failed to properly support and encourage us in this lifelong development of an ever-deepening love relationship with God. Once we are stabilized in our faith, the focus often shifts to getting busy for the Lord in various ministries. We often are not properly equipped to increasingly enter into a deep experiential love relationship with God that empowers our lives and ministries supernaturally. Churches often teach to be suspicious of experiencing God in circumstances, in the still small voice, through the Body of Christ, and in nature. Some churches teach that God can only be experienced through the Scriptures.

Experiencing the Vision

We can know truth without really experiencing truth at the heart level. For example, we can know God loves us, and yet fear his rejection through being weak and unbelieving. We can know God loves us, yet try to increase his love for us through achievement. We can know God loves us, yet fear the future he controls. Our feelings and actions show we really do not fully understand or rely on his love at the heart level. So, we need truth to percolate from our heads to our hearts.

One discipline that is helpful in embracing the reality that God deeply loves us is to meditate on his Scriptures that he uses to tell us how much he does. Prayerfully meditating on Scriptures such as Psalm 23, Psalm 91, Psalm 131, and Psalm 139 help us soak in the reality of his love. I often feel my fears begin to melt away as I allow the truth of his love to sink deep within my heart.

I know from much personal experience how being in the presence of love is a great anecdote for fear. Living at my Grandma’s house at various times during my childhood, I experienced godly love and found release from my fears in the presence of this godly woman. She never looked at me like she was evaluating me, but always in admiration and love.

As the years went by, my times at Grandma’s house became less and less, for my family had moved two thousand miles away. When I was twelve, I began to experience some strong anxieties as I faced the transition from childhood to being a teenager. I became depressed and began to develop some other emotional problems. However, God rescued me and led my dad to move back to Illinois near my Grandma and other loving relatives. In the presence of their warm and loving acceptance of me, my fears melted away within a month and I became happy again.

I now use sanctified imaginative sessions (committing the time to God for his control), in which I revisit Grandma’s house with Jesus there and experience being loved by Jesus and Grandma. These times are helping to transform my heart, feelings and thoughts that mere cognitive knowing never touched. Having said this, I always check these experiences to ensure that they are consistent with the truths of Scripture.

Another discipline that can help us experience being loved by Jesus is to place ourselves in gospel scenes like Matthew 11:25-30, Mark 6:45-52, and Luke 12:22-32 through our imagination.Then, we become an eyewitness to experiencing Jesus’ love being shown to his disciples as we see, feel, taste, hear, and touch what the original participants experienced, to increase the reality of his great love for us. We need to particularly pay attention to how Jesus looks at us, and what he says to us in these imaginative sessions. I personally believe God uses these times to speak truth and reveal his deep love for me.

Another excellent discipline to experience God’s love for us is participating in a small group. God’s love is in each Christian to some extent, and he wants to use each of us to love one another. Yet, human love is always tainted with self-interest to some extent, but often gives us a taste of love that helps us to want to receive God’s perfect love.

Finally, one of the key disciplines that we need to be practicing is to “lay aside the old self, and put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22-24) in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is critical if we are to grow in experiencing his love and fellowship, for, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [in the old self], we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). When we are clinging to our baggage, such as respect from others determines our worth, or achievement increases our worth, then we are living in darkness in these areas. “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run” (Hebrews 12:1). When we do not intentionally deal with these lies we rely on, our ability to experience the joy and peace of God’s never-failing love for us will be hindered.

I am currently learning to identify satanic lies that I have trusted in for most of my life. Also, I am identifying the corresponding truths from God’s Word and asking God, through his Spirit, to enable me to put off the old and learn to rely on his truth. The lies I have relied on at the heart level include the fallacy that my weaknesses may cause God to reject me. In addition, I have relied on the lies that God will love me more if I achieve, and that I am loved if people approve of me. A corresponding truth that I am depending on the Holy Spirit to increasingly make experientially real to me is that God will never reject me no matter what. In addition, I am learning to rely more on the fact that God is head-over-heels in love with me and will never love me more. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Finally, I am learning to live more in the reality that I am loved by God, no matter how people respond to me.

Excerpt from the book Experiencing God’s Transforming Love

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